What makes a great Italian restaurant – Part 1

A GREAT Italian Restaurant must have GREAT Italian food!

First and foremost, regardless of authentic ambiance, if the restaurant’s food is mediocre, the restaurant doesn’t stand a chance of making any must-visit list.


My husband and I are huge fans of Italian food. We have eaten in Italian restaurants in Rome and under the Rialto Bridge in Venice in Italy; in midtown New York and in Little Italy on Manhattan Island; in San Diego, California, and in various cities in between, including Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto in Canada.


The restaurants we have visited have been both upscale like Nocello in midtown New York and dumpy like the little pizza joint in the back of a grocery store in San Diego. But we would return to both places in a heartbeat – the first for its tremendous creamy risotto, the second for its hearty juicy pizza pie.

Pomodoro is another example where the quality of food far outweighs the atmosphere. It’s a very cramped eatery on the corner of Spring and Mulberry in Little Italy, New York, but its pizza and lasagna are well worth a return trip.


Having said that, atmosphere usually plays a major role in our initial choice of a restaurant, like the one under the Rialto Bridge in Italy. On our very first afternoon in Venice, we feasted on a huge plate of risotto and a glass of house Chianti while watching the gondoliers float by. Not many restaurants can rate higher on the wow! scale than that experience.


Price is a factor in our restaurant choices. Because we know we don’t have to spend a fortune to get great-tasting food, we will usually avoid the high-priced Italian restaurants. Nocello is an exception.

We love this family-run midtown Manhattan spot. The atmosphere is typical old-world Sicilian with its bottles of olive oil infused with herbs, wooden furniture, and Italian decorations.

A Christmas Eve dinner, four courses with wine, dessert, and tips came to $150US. But because of its amazing goat cheese salad, creamy delicious risotto, and hearty pasta, the higher cost was fine.


A word of warning when it comes to cost be extremely diligent when choosing a restaurant in Italy. Read the menu carefully as the price may be determined by weight and not by plate. We got a nasty surprise in Venice when a tasty fish dish ended up costing us 35 EUROS instead of the 7 EUROS we saw posted in the

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